NewsBrief December 3, 2021

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Cost Estimating NewsBrief: December 3, 2021

New OPM ‘playbook’ supports government hiring surge

(FCW) The Office of Personnel Management wants to help agencies bring a “talent surge” into government. On Wednesday, the agency released a new Talent Surge Executive Playbook and a fact sheet on hiring authorities available to agencies, which OPM encourages them to capitalize on in the new playbook. In a Dec. 1 memorandum to agency chief human capital officers, OPM Director Kiran Ahuja wrote that “agencies face acute need right now.” Ahuja pointed to the recent passage of the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, saying that “agencies will be front-and-center carrying through on this commitment to build back better.” Read More

Defense Policy Bill Likely Won’t Become Law Until 2022. That’s ‘Not The End of the World’

(FedWeek) It’s looking more and more likely that the annual defense policy bill will not become law in 2021. Congress frequently has an end-of-calendar-year push to pass the bill, which authorizes the Defense Department activities for the fiscal year that began in October, requests reports or briefings from the Pentagon, and sets new policy on things such as military justice reform or who should register for the draft. But experts say there’s lots of precedent for the legislation passing in the new year and few consequences to doing so. A Senate motion to end debate on the fiscal 2022 National Defense Authorization Act failed on Monday by a vote of 41-51; it needed 60 ayes to set up a vote for final passage. All Republicans who voted rejected the procedural step forward. Read More

GAO Lists Issues for Federal Salary Council—Once There Is One

(FEDweek) The Federal Salary Council faces several important decisions regarding operation of the GS locality pay system, the GAO has said, although noting that the council currently is dormant because the Biden administration has not named its members. The salary council, made up of union and administration officials and outside experts on compensation, oversees data used to compare federal and non-federal jobs for determining the pay gap by locality. It also sets standards for creating new city-area localities—with higher pay by grade and step—and attaching outlying areas to existing localities. Read More

Senator wants to know what agencies are doing to protect employee cell phones

(Federal News Network) Very little, if anything, is being done to protect federal employees and facilities from cell phone surveillance technology creating counterintelligence threats. So says Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) in a letter to six agencies, including the departments of Defense, State and Homeland Security. Wyden says cell phones can be tracked and calls and texts can be intercepted by cell site simulators. Wyden wants to know what these agencies are doing to deploy countermeasures and protect employees and critical facilities. Wyden asked for a response from these agencies by Dec. 10. Read More

NASA: Lessons from Ongoing Major Projects Can Inform Management of Future Space Telescopes

(GAO@100) A recent National Academies report proposed new space telescopes for NASA, potentially adding to NASA’s 3 current major space telescope projects. One current project (the James Webb Space Telescope) plans to launch in December after years of delays and cost increases. We testified that NASA’s success with future space telescope projects will depend on its ability to: better manage its large projects, which have ripple effects on its whole portfolio; minimize risk in decision making and assess risk realistically; consistently update cost and schedule information for decision makers, like Congress. Read More

‘Transformational’ approach to machine learning could accelerate search for new disease treatments

(Science Daily) Researchers have developed a new approach to machine learning that ‘learns how to learn’ and out-performs current machine learning methods for drug design, which in turn could accelerate the search for new disease treatments. The method, called transformational machine learning (TML), was developed by a team from the UK, Sweden, India and Netherlands. It learns from multiple problems and improves performance while it learns. Read More

Artificial intelligence that understands object relationships

(Science Daily) When humans look at a scene, they see objects and the relationships between them. On top of your desk, there might be a laptop that is sitting to the left of a phone, which is in front of a computer monitor. Many deep learning models struggle to see the world this way because they don’t understand the entangled relationships between individual objects. Without knowledge of these relationships, a robot designed to help someone in a kitchen would have difficulty following a command like “pick up the spatula that is to the left of the stove and place it on top of the cutting board.” Read More

DOE Issues RFI for Energy Sector Supply Chain Review

(ExecutiveGov) The Department of Energy is seeking public insights on the energy sector industrial base and associated technologies to help inform DOE’s efforts in establishing resilient supply chains for the energy sector. DOE is conducting a supply chain review to identify current and future threats and risks, determine conditions needed to help incentivize companies and communities in the sector and pinpoint areas where collaboration between the private sector and government is needed to broaden the energy industrial base, according to a request for information published Tuesday on Federal Register. Read More

Team builds first living robots that can reproduce

(Science Daily) To persist, life must reproduce. Over billions of years, organisms have evolved many ways of replicating, from budding plants to sexual animals to invading viruses. Now scientists at the University of Vermont, Tufts University, and the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University have discovered an entirely new form of biological reproduction — and applied their discovery to create the first-ever, self-replicating living robots. Read More

Air Force civilian stole $1.1 million via travel charge card, bought piano, Harley, vacations

(AirForceTimes) A former U.S. Air Force civilian employee was sentenced Nov. 29 to 16 months in federal prison after he used his government-issued travel charge card for more than $1.1 million in cash advances, most of which he used for personal expenses, according to a press release for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Maryland. U.S. District Judge Paul W. Grimm also ordered Eddie Ray Johnson, Jr., age 60, of Brandywine, Maryland, to three years probation after his 16-month sentence. The first of the three years will be served in home confinement, marking the part of his sentence that addresses theft of government property. Read More